Tobacco was the largest cash crop in North Carolina up until about 2004 when tobacco quotas ended and producers sign up to receive ten years of federal money to stop growing the crop. That movement was called the "Tobacco Buyout Program."
Now, ten years later, the program is coming to an end. Farmers will no longer receive checks from the government after this year. Many farmers are planting tobacco, once again, in an effort to make ends meet.
"We have nowhere near the amount of tobacco we had ten years ago, or the number of farmers," explained Michael Shaw with the Columbus County Cooperative Extension Service. "Compared to two years ago, we have more tobacco and we have more tobacco farmers."
While the amount of people who smoke and use tobacco continues to decrease in the United States and Canada, that is not the case in places like southeast Asia and China where there are more smokers than ever before.
According to Shaw, the tobacco grown in North Carolina is better than tobacco grown in other parts of the world. He said most of the local tobacco goes into cigarette production.
"The quality of the tobacco that we grow in this area, the climate and soil that we have makes a very flavorable tobacco that winds up in cigarettes," Shaw explained.
Tobacco used to be sold by auction in warehouses, but today it is sold by contacts directly from the farmers to the tobacco companies.
Regardless of how it is sold, tobacco continues to be a very important part of the North Carolina agricultural economy.
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